My Treatment For Missing Sports 1: Monday Night Football, September 21, 1970. Jets vs. Browns

Welcome to a new feature for my fellow sports addicts going through withdrawal.

The other day, I watched MLB Network’s broadcast of the 1978 Yankee/Red Sox divisional play-off, the Bucky Dent game. They showed the entirety of the game with a few pop-up trivia overlays, but essentially just gave us the old WPIX broadcast complete with Bill White and Phil Rizzuto.

And I thought, with ALL sports gone for a while, why don’t the other sports channels run old games? They own the films of all of ’em, and could add panels with surviving players the way MLB does, or put in pop-up trivia, or what have you.

But I then I remembered how people upload their own private video stash to youtube, and sure enough, there’s GOLD like this – the complete broadcast of ABC’s Monday Night Football premiere game of 1970, with the original commercials intact.

There’s a lot to digest here – Keith Jackson’s announcing, Howard Cosell on highlights, and Don Meredith on very infrequent color commentary. The differences both in how the game is broadcast and how the game is played from now is pretty striking.

The broadcast is simple – no frills, very few replays. Limited camerawork given the technology of the day, but all the key action captured. Cosell starts the show off with a nice dig at Meredith, introducing him with a lowlight reel of his QB career, but the tradition of the insults flying in the booth wouldn’t really get going until the show aged a bit.

God… those titles and theme song. Hardly the big production and hype we get now. No yellow first down line. No scores or ticker flashing. We don’t even get to see the game clock unless they cut to a shot of the one at the stadium,

And somehow, it didn’t really matter.

The game play is something to see as well. No celebrations or showboating after mere sacks and tackles. Not even after touchdowns. The guys just play, and try to play well. It didn’t seem like there were as many penalties. The refs weren’t even mic’ed up, their calls had to be explained by Jackson unless you knew the hand signals.

And way fewer injuries, even with the defenses playing with a lot more contact, especially in the secondary.

Oh, and those ads! Never mind the Marlboro ciggie ads as a glimpse into a lost world… all the ads with athletes pitching stuff are SO much more likeable than the ENDLESS God damn insurance company drek that runs over and over and over again during today’s sportscasts. We get Len Dawson & Joe Kapp pitching Gillette before Tom Seaver does. Other ads feature Roger Maris and Bart Starr. It almost rivaled the nostalgia brought back by the players on the field… Joe Namath, Emerson Boozer & Matt Snell on the Jets, or the guy with one of the best names in sports history, Fair Hooker on the Browns.

The halftime highlights go through some of the previous weekend’s games, with Cosell selling it like it’s a huge innovation to see league films. Maybe it was back then.

Those Boston Patriots managed to beat the Miami Dolphins, though! But the seeds of the Dolphins’ future Superbowl champions were in place… some highlight plays include Griese passing to Paul Warfield, a combo I remember very well.

And there’s always Rod Serling selling Ford LTDs or Goodyear tires that’ll keep EVEN YOUR WIFE safe if she drives alone… but one of the ads that really jumped out at me was the United Airlines ad touting flying a 747. Look at the people in it – how well dressed they are, how spacious and relaxed that plane cabin looks, the people strolling around. Flying was once glamorous, luxurious… now they cram you in like sardines, nickel and dime you six different ways and take away your water.

This is a lot of fun to watch – and it’s just a regular game from another era. No playoff or memorable game where some record was broken, just a normal weekly broadcast. The Jets were a year after winning their upset Superbowl, the fans in Cleveland still had hope, and no one knew that veteran Johnny Unitas would finally win a Superbowl that season.

Well, if NFL network or ESPN won’t run stuff like this, I’ll post it to share, and invite your viewership and comments! I can’t be the only one who misses present sports and loves sports history.

So as therapy for our sports on hiatus, look for old games here – football, baseball, basketball, hockey… whatever I can find, especially if it has the original commercials and show bumpers. I want the complete experience, right down to the lame synth theme songs, hairstyles, dated celebrity references… you name it.

Walkies

Certainly a nice day out. Finally, after maybe two weeks of mostly rain or unsettled garbage.

And like all of you, I’ve been stuck inside, doing my job online for the past week. Felt good to get out and start doing my walks again. I was up to a 4 mile a day routine last summer, I guess I’ll get an early start on that now.

I went up the hill to my usual spot for watching July 4th fireworks and took this shot from my spiffy new phone, the best digital camera I have. The view is a nice one today.

I walked by the big community pool. Totally empty. Three ducks had the whole hot tub to themselves and were riding the jets around and around.

So, putting together all the recent news and combining it with my personal observations, I’m predicting this for our future:

You heard it here first.

The Cure For Stupid

Today I went to the grocery store for some restocking, mostly milk, yogurt and assorted items I had soon-to-be-expiring coupons for.

They only had a few bottles of hand sanitizer on the shelves. Well, I guess I can sorta understand the run on those with coronavirus fears out there. You can’t carry a sink and hot water around with you, after all.

But the shelves stocking cases of bottled water and toilet paper were nearly empty.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO STOCK UP ON BOTTLED WATER???

Even if you WERE quarantined at home for WEEKS, there’s something called THE FAUCET, WHERE RUNNING WATER COMES OUT.

And it’s NOT an intestinal bug. You don’t NEED that much toilet paper.

(I do, but that’s another story).

So the cure for this stupidity?

SIMPLE! Turns out the other day, there’s a mountain lion wandering my neighborhood. I knew there were coyotes and a local bobcat, but never a mountain lion before. But according to the ever-vigilant on Nextdoor, someone spotted a decent sized lion only a couple of blocks from my house.

I wanted a new kitty. Maybe the lion heard about that.

In the meantime, I HOPE HE EATS ALL YOU STUPID IDIOTS STOCKPILING BOTTLED WATER.

And then I hope he drinks the water. My cat used to get dehydrated.

And then I hope he pees all over your STUPID CORPSE.

If the lion DOES become my pet, I will train him to do so.

The Hardest Working Batteries In Show Business

They don’t make ’em like this anymore, I guess.

This morning, my stereo forgot all of its preset radio stations, and I remembered that there’s actually a small battery compartment in the back that’s the thing that saves them.

I popped it open to replace what looked like a pair of AA batteries, and when I removed the old ones, it occurred to me that I’ve NEVER replaced these batteries before.

And they’re Sony batteries with assorted Japanese text on them. They’re the factory batteries THAT CAME WITH MY STEREO IN 1984 WHEN I BOUGHT IT.

So they’ve been saving my presets for more than 35 years.

I bet the ones I just popped in there last six months. Kids today….

A Timely Novelty Song From 1947

Me?

I’m drinking wine and making an Italian chicken and lentil stew for dinner. I’m watching a Yankees/Red Sox preseason game to watch individual players, and to soothe my baseball addiction with some meaningless sports.

I intend to die as I lived…. as a decadent glutton.

The rest of you are on your own.

FIRE THE GOD DAMN TRAINING AND CONDITIONING STAFF NOW

Luis Severino, who was the Yankees’ Cy Young finalist in 2018, and who got sidelined for nearly ALL of 2019 with some lame-ass labrum issue during spring training LAST year, is now slated for Tommy John surgery after throwing a small amount in only FUCKING FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR.

Tommy John surgery means missing ALL of 2020 and a decent part of 2021.

Want more injuries? Aaron Judge, who should’ve won MVP over cheatin’ Altuve, is having “shoulder problems,” which in Yankee-speak means he’ll probably be sidelined until Labor Day.

Pile that on top of James Paxton, with friggin BACK SURGERY conducted a month ago as opposed to, oh, November maybe? He’ll be out until at least June.

Last year, a record THIRTY players from the Yankees went on the injured list. They still managed to win the division and lose to the Astros on stolen signs, but this is ridiculous. No other team in the league has this level of injuries, and as frequently.

The blame clearly lies with the training and conditioning, and whatever pharmaceuticals are being dispensed that numb minor pain before they turn major.

FIRE THEM ALL.

They should have been fired LAST year. And now we’re off to 2020, still in FUCKING FEBRUARY, and two of the best starting pitchers they have have been sidelined indefinitely, their perennial MVP hopeful “questionable.”

ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT.

I’m ready to fly to Tampa and personally pound the living shit out of their training and conditioning coaches. If I go on the injured list, it’s no big deal.

This was supposed to be the year – with signing Cole and everyone healthy, the Yankees should win north of 110 games. But this bullshit is already starting.

THIS RUINED MY WHOLE DAY and outweighed my fear of laboratory-grown Chinese germs heading our way. This just SUCKS.

BAH.

Other Guys Dream About Girls

So last night, I dreamed that I had been trying to sleep outside in some North Hollywood park for some reason, and maybe about 4am or so, with the sun coming up, I gave up and figured I’d better head home and call in to work to let ’em know I wouldn’t be coming in.

I walked down Moorpark street in my pajamas trying to make my way back to Burbank (even though I don’t live there anymore), and then found myself in an underground parking garage of a large mall in Universal City.

I thought about catching a bus, but then I looked up the escalator and saw Donald Trump heading my way.

So, I went up the escalator and figured I’d meet the guy, regardless of mine or anyone else’s politics.

I introduced myself and shook his hand, still in my pajamas.

“You look really tired,” he said.

“Well, I’ve been up all night sleeping in the park, gotta get home,” I said.

He laughed and said “I hope you have a pitcher of Margaritas waiting for you there.”

I shook my head no, and then he added. “Watch, now they’ll talk about how I’m drinking pitchers of margaritas.”

“No,” I said. “I know you don’t drink at all.” (And this is true, if you’re curious.)

And then Trump added an observation that has had me pondering all day:

He began “You know when someone puts out a tray of muffins to sell, they always take the best tasting muffin and put it up front, to draw you in. But you know, it’s the best muffin and it’s only there up front to make you buy the others which are inferior. So when you think about it, that muffin is a total lie, a total lie.”

The dream breaks up after that, I woke up chuckling over the muffin speech… but the more I think about it, the deeper it gets.

It’s like a Zen muffin koan.

Avoid the muffin that LIES.

Now, I’ve had some psychic dreams before – I’ve written about them and worked them into the plots of my Wagstaff detective books – so now I’m hoping that Trump tweets something about muffins that tell lies. The more I think about it, it’d be on brand.

I also remember the distinct feeling during my dream that Trump didn’t give off a “Presidential vibe” while I listened to him discuss the muffins. Granted, I’ve never actually met a President. The closest I came was shaking hands with a Presidential candidate, Senator Frank Church, back in 1976 when he appeared at a discount store in Warwick, RI… very fitting for a discount candidate, but it was nonetheless cool to go when I was a kid.

And biggest-loser-in-history Walter Mondale attended my college graduation, and I walked by him and saw how much weight he’d put on since the previous November. He definitely drowned his sorrows in donuts. Or muffins, perhaps, who knows? I didn’t meet or talk to the guy.

But the deeper meaning of my dream is pretty clear to me, at least: when you go into the voting booth, avoid the muffin that lies.

Or just try the chocolate muffins from Costco. They’re pretty damn good, liars or not.

Wabbit

It looks like a rather large rabbit has decided to take up residence in my backyard. And by rather large, I’m gonna go ahead and guess “preggo” since (1) it’s a friggin RABBIT and (2) bunny has definitely decided that my walled-in backyard is a safe spot, unlike the coyote filled nearby woods.

Not sure how she got in the yard – either by squeezing under my gate or squeezing through the small weep holes drilled through the bottom of my front wall.

I haven’t seen her during the day, but at night she’s set off my motion light or I’ve seen her when I switched it on. Seeing me in the window made her run away and hide in the rosemary the other night, but tonight she got braver and simply stared at me.

She’s got my number. Probably the local bobcat told her “Oh that guy? He’s a total patsy.”

I found a small hole dug in one spot in the yard. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll find another. I really don’t care if momma bunny digs a nest and births her babies back there. I let my back lawn die years ago during the drought. And although they won’t have to worry about my gardener’s lawnmower, that leaf blower noise might scare the crap out of them.

Maybe momma rabbit will grow some brains and dig her nest into the side of the hill where the rosemary grows instead of smack in the middle of my dead back lawn, pretty much just a flat field of moss now.

Or maybe not. There’s a reason why rabbits have to multiply the way they do, and that’s because of Darwinist principles that have them raising babies in the middle of someone’s backyard, which from up on high must look like a bullseye to a passing hawk or owl.

I just read this about rabbits’ nests in yards, and it makes me think I’m right about what’s happening.

What I’m actually more skittish about is my memory of a coyote leaping my wall while chasing some animal a couple of years ago and getting trapped in my backyard. When I woke up, he was wandering around the yard wondering how to get out because, well, coyotes are pretty stupid. A coyote leaping that wall to get to a baby rabbit nest would be, well, following the course of nature and all, and I realize it happens in the wild all the time, but I really don’t want to look out my window and watch baby rabbit buffet happen.

Because it won’t go like this.

Then again, with my cat gone a couple of years now, maybe I’m being given a new pet of sorts. If I do find a nest back there, I’ll leave some lettuce leaves or carrot greens near it, maybe.

The bobcat is right.

My Past Continues To Die

A flurry of celebrity deaths of people all connected to the entertainment of my childhood and beyond…

First, producer Gene Reynolds died at a ripe old 96. He’d produced the early seasons of M*A*S*H along with Lou Grant and Hogan’s Heroes, Room 222 and a bunch of other stuff. Especially considering that M*A*S*H’s best years were under his & Larry Gelbart’s supervision, countless hours were spent (and often still are) watching Reynolds’ shows.

Then Orson Bean got hit by two cars while walking in Venice Beach. The first knocked the 91 year old to the ground and the second ran him over. I haven’t read any more about it – I hope it wasn’t some moron on their phone. Bean was a mainstay on game shows like To Tell The Truth back in the day, and more recently was wonderful in Being John Malkovich. Long ago, a friend of mine appeared with Bean in a small theater production out here – a very odd musical about John Cleves Symmes’ attempt in the 19th century to find the hole at the north pole leading to the center of the Earth. I’ll always remember hearing how after the playwright got stone-drunk after witnessing the flop of premiere night, supposedly Bean, playing Symmes’ old professor narrating the tale, came backstage and announced something along the lines of “Looks like we got us here a real bomb, folks!” and everyone erupted in laughter.

For the record, the actors were fine, some set design items were clever… but the script? Ye Gods!

Every backstage story I heard about Bean fit his TV persona.

And then, Robert Conrad died yesterday, star of one of my favorite old shows, The Wild Wild West. Conrad was always reliable for fist fights with his stuntmen buddies in numerous scenes (usually the legendary Red West and Whitey Hughes), and for playing tough guys. He played one of the scuzzier Columbo villains as well, a fitness guru who runs a string of crooked health clubs and murders the guy who discovers the Ponzi scheme behind them. His WW2 TV show got made fun of a lot in its day, but looking back on it in reruns, it’s a decent wartime adventure show with its plots loosely based on the memoirs of Conrad’s role, “Pappy” Boyington.

Conrad had a sense of humor about his image, doing those silly battery ads or losing foot races to Gabe Kaplan on Battle of the Network Stars. Many years ago when Howard Stern’s fans made it their business to phone into the Larry King Live show on CNN and annoy King with endless Stern promotion after King and Stern had some feud, Conrad was on King’s show being interviewed about some project he had coming up, and the Stern-themed calls started rolling in. King kept getting angrier and angrier, but Conrad couldn’t stop laughing and playing along with them.

It’s what Jim West woulda done, with Artie Gordon calling in.

Want more treasured elements of the past to blow up before your eyes? Well, why not start with tonight’s Oscar Awards.

I won’t make any Oscar predictions this year. I just don’t care anymore. I haven’t watched the broadcast in the last couple of years, and I’m not missing anything. I still love movies, but this event no longer has any sort of luster or importance to me at all.

And the WORST of all?

Well, I just got back from running some errands which included a stop at the 99 Cents Only store. And as I browsed the aisles, I noticed more and more items that are NOT 99 cents, but are labeled as supposed “bargains” at 2.99, 3.99, 9.99 and so forth.

They ought to change the name of the store to 99 Cents On Some Stuff, Anyway instead of 99 Cents Only. Amirite?

AND they didn’t have a big plastic pasta strainer to replace the one I have that developed a few cracks. NOR did they have the brand of deodorant I like. THOSE BASTARDS.

But karma – the shopping Gods smiled upon me, and I found a very nice wool winter jacket up the street at Goodwill for only twenty bucks. SO SUCK IT, 99 CENTS FOR WHAT WE BAIT AND SWITCH YOU WITH STORE.

Now I’m home, about to check the math on my friggin taxes. Bah.

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